What is a King Cake and Why is There a Baby Inside?
If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, Louisiana during the Mardi Gras season, you’ve likely heard of king cakes are tried some from Randazzo King Cake and Dong Phuong King Cake - the experts!
These delicious desserts are a major part of celebrating Mardi Gras, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. If you’re wondering why there’s a small plastic baby inside your king cake, read on!
The History of King Cakes
King cakes were brought to America from France as early as 1870. The original French version was called a galette des Rois and it was an almond-flavored pastry that was served during Epiphany (January 6).
Epiphany is the day when many Christians celebrate the visit of the three wise men to baby Jesus. So, it makes sense that modern king cakes contain a symbolic item - usually a figurine or trinket - that symbolizes Baby Jesus - as a nod to the three wise men. This little trinket can be either ceramic or plastic, depending on where you buy your cake from.
But Why is There a Baby Inside the Cake?
There wasn't always a baby inside!
In some European countries, such as France and Spain, bakers included beans or coins in their cakes for good luck. In America however, bakers use small babies instead.
In the 1940s, it's believed that adding the baby to the King Cake started with a long-standing tradition of baking dolls - referred to as "frozen Charlotte" - in the form of a small porcelain baby doll, into cakes and pastries.
But over time, these little frozen Charlottes (symbolizing baby Jesus) are no longer baked into the cake, they now come in plastic form and more often than not, can be found lurking within a slice and covered out of sight with frosting.
The baby is meant to represent Jesus' birth at Christmas time and if you’re lucky enough to find one on Mardi Gras day, it means you get to be King or Queen for that day and receive luck or fortune throughout the year ahead - especially if they host next year's King Cake party! Pretty cool, eh?
Next time you're at a Mardi Gras celebration, keep your eyes peeled for the baby hidden inside your slice of King Cake! This tiny trinket might just bring you luck all year long - so why not give it a try?
But before you dig into your slice of King Cake take a look at the rainbow colors found in the glaze and sprinkles. Usually decorated in gold, green, and purple - the colors of the icing (the royal colors of Mardi Gras) have a deeper meaning. Gold is for power, green represents faith, and purple stands for justice.
Whether you're new to celebrating Mardi Gras or consider yourself an expert reveler, discovering what's really behind this age-old tradition is sure to add some extra fun and excitement to your Fat Tuesday festivities!
So now you know what a King Cake is all about!
How to Hide the Baby...er...in a King Cake
If you decide you want to hide the plastic baby - or trinket, coin, or dried bean in your cake - here's what you need to do.
First bake the cake. Then wait until it has completely cooled - so that nothing melts and oozes into your cake - yuck.
Lift the bottom edge of the cake gently and either cut or poke a hole in the bottom of the cake and insert the baby, trinket, or bean.
Be sneaky about it so that people won't be able to see where you hid it. You know how everybody usually hangs out in the kitchen!
Or you can place the baby in through the top and cover the area with frosting. You'll just have to remember where it is so that you don't cut the plastic baby as you're slicing - 'cause that wouldn't be good.
You can always slice the cake and then hide the baby in one of the slices - that way you know where it is.
The person who finds it has to host next year!
And most importantly - make sure all your guests are aware there may be a plastic baby Jesus in their cake slice as the plastic babies are small and could pose a choking hazard to children and adults!
Whether you plan on attending an annual Mardi Gras parade or just want something sweet for your family gathering, this tasty treat is sure to be a hit. Just don’t forget about that little plastic baby - because whoever finds it gets crowned king or queen for the day!
So, go forth and enjoy all things, Mardi Gras!